An investment of £1.4 billion in the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) Weybridge facility will help protect the country against the increasing threats of animal and plant diseases, according tio Defra.
The new funding for the UK’s world-leading scientific and veterinary capability was announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget on March 11.
The funding will be used to redevelop and future-proof the current Weybridge facility, a unique site with specialist research and laboratory facilities and capabilities for animal health science and disease control.
APHA is responsible for safeguarding animal and plant health. This includes providing scientific evidence and advice to government in controlling outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001, testing several thousand samples for Avian Influenza (bird flu) during outbreaks in the winter of 2016/17 and recent research that has paved the way for field trials of a cattle vaccine to combat bovine tuberculosis (bTB). the agnecy is currently supporting PHE in the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Defra said the investment would help the UK economy by protecting against animal and human disease risks. The UK currently export £4.2bn of livestock, meat and meat products, dairy and animal by-products per year, trade which is safeguarded by the services that APHA provides. This investment is also expected to attract high-quality scientists and technical experts, making it an even more attractive place to work.
APHA Weybridge provides expert advice to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation, as the international reference laboratory for a large range of animal diseases.
UK Chief Veterinary OfficerChristine Middlemiss said: “It is great to see that the UK’s science capability is being recognised and invested in even further by the government.
“The UK is already a global leader in animal health science and we have some of the best scientists in the world. This investment will safeguard and amplify our ability to collaborate and influence globally.”
Defra Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner, said: “This new Government investment reflects APHA’s world leading reputation and essential role at the heart of UK science, disease prevention, and rapid response to disease outbreaks. I am delighted as this funding will help ensure the UK continues to be a leading voice globally on science and biosecurity”.
APHA chief executive Chris Hadkiss said: “This is fantastic news for everyone at APHA and the wider Defra group as this gives the financial investment to ensure we can continue to enhance our crucial and valuable role in animal health science and in providing our emergency response to disease outbreaks.
“The financial commitment also highlights how the government recognises our international reputation as experts in animal and plant health science and the critical role we have in protecting the UK and the economy from animal disease risk.”